Tag Archives: tornadoes

What if the Worst Happens? — What Then?

I’ve been thinking about business, preparing for the expected, and then facing the unexpected…

Many products have faced delays in delivery of products due to the earthquakes/tsunami in Japan.

And now, the tornadoes that have sliced through and devastated portions of cities, specially in Alabama…  What will that do to the economy?

(Of course, the first thought, always, is the human loss – and the tragedy of lives snuffed out, some so very young…)

But the ripple effects on the economy also get our attention.

For some reason, I go back to one of the main ideas in The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande:

We have just two reasons that we may fail. 
The first is ignorance – we may err because science has given us only a partial understanding of the world and how it works.  There are skyscrapers we do not yet know how to build, snowstorms we cannot predict, heart attacks we still haven’t learned how to stop. The second type of failure the philosophers call ineptitude – because in these instances the knowledge exists, yet we fail to apply it correctly  This is the skyscraper that is built wrong and collapses, the snowstorm whose signs the meteorologist just plain missed, the stab wound from a weapon the doctors forgot to ask about. 
For nearly all of history, people’s lives have been governed primarily by ignorance. 

When a company faces a problem of its own making, it is the fault of that company.  Some ineptitude has crept in, gone unchecked, and now created something between a small problem to great havoc.  In this case, the company is to blame, and the company leaders and employees have to learn, quickly and thoroughly, from their mistakes.

But when something happens from “outside” – something the company has no control over, then the company is not to blame.  A tornado; a tsunami…  these are some things no company can control.

There are a few other such examples that are equally disturbing to business success, like…  practically every business is facing the ripple effects of the rising gasoline prices.  If the prices continue to rise, then the ripple effects will be a genuine drain on a whole lot of bottom lines.  This is not the fault of the company, or its own ineptitude.  But the effects may soon be felt in every industry, in every company.

But…  on the other hand, I think there is a simple lesson in all of this.  Maybe every company needs to spend a little time on “what if the worst happens?  Then what do we do” planning.

Because I think I am learning this – there are a whole lot of “what if the worst happens” possibilities out there.